Meditations in the life of Abraham : 4. Childless
Gen 11:30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.
Now I know we have touched on this in one of the earliest meditations in this series as we observed the nature of this family and its various hurts, but I feel we need to pause up and consider this particular issue in more detail. Our verse above stands there is terrible starkness; eight horrible words.
Now if you are a husband or wife who has no desire for children you might like to move on to the next meditation for you are an unusual person. Most women desire to have children. In today’s work-orientated culture they may leave it until later in life, but it is still there, this desire to let your body do what it was designed to do – to procreate. Women who do not want children are relatively few and, from personal experience, at least one of the reasons they do not is fear. When we were first married, my wife will not mind me telling you that she did not want children. The Cold War was still a reality and it was a time when there was a lot of talk about persecution of Christians behind the Iron Curtain, and my wife feared bringing children into that sort of world. It took the Lord four years to bring her to a place of security where she felt she could trust any children into His care in such an environment. She is now a wonderful mother of three and a wonderful grandmother of five.
If we had shared our testimony with Sarai she would have been hurt because it wasn’t a case of what she wanted, it was a case of what she was able or not able to do. For those of you who are walking the same path as Sarai, I understand that it is an incredibly sensitive and hurtful subject, and there are many like you. From all I have observed I conclude that desperately wanting children when none come is one of the most heart rending experiences in human life. You see people around you breeding like rabbits and your greatest longing is to hold a little bundle of your own, but month after month just brings yet further loss of hope and you begin to wonder if, for the rest of your life you are going to be destined to be childless, and a knife seems to pierce your heart. This is at the heart of this story of this couple, Abram and Sarai. One could almost say that their story is all about this – and about God, of course.
Yes, it is so easy to leave God out of this. I don’t know about you but after you have prayed and prayed and prayed, and still there is no answer, you begin to wonder if God is still in this universe, and so you just get on with life without Him. But this is a story, not of a man who persevered believing in God, but of a God who kept on breaking in to his childless life with promises of a child. In fact it may have been this that was the driving force that got Abram and his family moving, because when we start chapter 12 of Genesis, which is where most of us start Abram’s story, we read, “The LORD had said to Abram.” (v.1a) which signifies that previously, before they started their traveling the Lord had spoken to Abram. But not only had the Lord spoken about leaving that land and going to another land, He had also promised, “I will make you into a great nation.” (v.2). Now for a nation to arise, there needs to be at the very least one son! In other words God’s instruction that seem to intrude in Abram’s thinking could be summarized as, “Go to the land I will show you and I will enable you to have children.”
As I said, was this THE motivation that got Abram to move? And when his father settled in Haran, which was NOT the land of their destiny, was Abram torn in two between his loyalty to his father and his desire for his wife to have a child. Eventually, as we saw previously, he moved on and left his father there. The desire for a child was greater than the desire for the family to stay together.
The Bible seems to be almost littered with couples who could not have children. Hannah (1 Sam 1) anguished over not being able to have a child, but Samuel was the result of her surrender to the Lord. Isaac, the eventual son of Abraham and Sarah, had to pray for twenty years before the Lord gave he and his wife Rebekah twins (Gen 25:21). An elderly childless couple are at the start of the Gospel story and eventually become the parents of John the Baptist (Lk 1).
Twice in my life I have prophesied over childless couples, you will have a baby within a year. Those words make me tremble for I hate giving false hope, especially in this so sensitive area, yet God fulfilled His word on both occasions. Don’t every pray, “Lord, if it is your will, please let us conceive.” Assume it is God’s will because Scripture testifies to the goodness of having children and of a God who steps in and enables it to happen. Assume it is God’s will until He tells you clearly otherwise, and merely because doctors say it is not possible, don’t give up. God can change genetic imperfections in one or other of your family histories and He can do what men declare is impossible. This is what this story of Abram and Sarai is all about. While you pray, read this story again and see if the Lord will speak words of life through it. Be blessed!